Tucked into the forested foothills of Gold Country, the small towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley are about 40 minutes from North Lake Tahoe down windy Highway 20. For a winter getaway these little towns do the holidays right: from Nevada City's charming Victorian Christmas to cozy winery tasting rooms you'll probably want to stay longer than a weekend.
Jaded San Franciscans will turn their noses up at the mere mention of Gold Country and sneer, "why would we want to go there?" However, if you give the rustic and under-the-radar Nevada City--the region's epicenter--the chance, you'll find it offers much-needed R&R with an authentic Western backdrop.
2008 was the year of the staycation, and 2009 doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. This is excellent news for California residents who have everything one could want--sand and snow, mountains and deserts, plains and valleys--all within the state's confines, plus some stellar ongoing deals on local getaways. In this two-part list, we'll tempt you with 10 can't-miss spots to visit in the coming 12 months--make it your New Year's resolution to hit them all.
10. Mammoth Lakes